Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (b. 1850) is the widow of the late Patrick Crawley, Earl of Grantham, mother of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham and the Lady Rosamund. mother-in-law of Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, grandmother of her three granddaughters Lady Mary Crawley, Lady Edith Crawley and Lady Sybil Branson nee Crawley.
Violet was born the daughter of a Baronet. While she is born nobility her family was relatively impoverished and she brought almost no money with her upon marriage. Her marriage to the Sixth Earl of Grantham, brought her a title but little money as the Earldom was also impoverished.
Life at Downton
The Countess of Grantham gave birth to two children, a son and heir, Robert, in 1869, and a daughter, Rosamund, in 1870. Not following in their mother's footsteps, her children married into money rather than nobility. The Countess was against Robert's engagement and marriage to the American heiress Cora Levinson but did reap the benefits of her fortune.
The death of James and Patrick Crawley changed everything for Violet as her granddaughter lost her chance to marry the heir of the Earldom. The new heir, Mathew Crawley did not live up to her standards as he was of the upper middle class rather than nobility. Unlike her son, Violet refused to accept the change in Mary's inheritance which caused her to form an alliance with her daughter-in-law Cora Crawley.
When the two Countesses realize that Mathew would remain heir to the Grantham title and Cora's fortune they shifted their focus on getting Mary to marry Mathew. The urgency for marriage was heightened when Violet was told by her niece that a rumor was spreading around London that Mary was not virtuous with Kemal Pamuk. She was scandalized to learn that the rumor was true and further urged Cora to get Mary to marry Mathew.
This period of time was characterized largely by Violet's many quarrels with Isobel Crawley , mother of Matthew. As president of the Downton Hospital, Violet held complete control over the hospital and its chief doctor, Richard Clarkson . Mrs. Crawley began to intimidate the doctor into pursuing modern medical practices, such as the administering of adrenaline to cure dropsy in a local farmer, despite the protests of the Dowager Countess. She pursues Isobel and Clarkson into the operation room, where she witnesses the farmer's life being saved. In order to avoid further episodes such as this, Robert appoints Isobel Chairman of the Board, forcing Violet to share power with her.
Another time was during the Downton Village Flower Show. Isobel learned that Violet was the perennial winner of the Best Bloom in the Village Award. She believed that the Dowager Countess won out of intimidation, pushing aside Bill Molesley, father of her butler. Isobel and Violet bickered as usual, and Robert, Cora, and Mary all sided with Isobel. Violet prepares to announce herself as the winner, but has a sudden crisis of conscience, seeing Bill Molesley's defeated face, and instead announces him as the winner. When he thanks her for "letting him have" the award, Violet lies and says the judges decided that he was the winner, confusing Cora (one of the judges).
By the time of the 1913-1914 season came around it seemed that her designs were coming to fruition and Mary was to marry Mathew. However when Cora became pregnant Mathew's position went into question and Rosamund advised Mary to wait until the baby was born to agree to marry Mathew. Violet was completely against this idea and advised Mary to agree to marriage using the logic that agreeing to marry a man when his whole future was at stake would make him love her forever. Also, she advised that Mary had the option to change her mind if the baby was a boy and Mathew lost his fortune. Unfortunately Cora lost her unborn son after she slipped getting out of the bath. Cora is unaware that O'Brien cause her fall and miscarriage by sliding a bar of soap across the floor. O'Brien was bitter over her mistakenly believing that Cora was looking to replace her when Cora was actually just helping Violet replace her lady's maid Simmons which O'Brien discovers when Violet asks her about it later on. Mary took Rosamond's advice which alienated Mathew leaving Violet to agree with Isobel Crawley for the first time.
Throughout World War One, Violet remained a somewhat strong influence at Downton Abbey. On the day of the Benefit Concert, she learns from Isobel Crawley that Matthew, now a captain in the army, is engaged to Lavinia Swire . Violet observes this match with distaste, as she still hoped, along with Robert, Cora, and (to some degree) Isobel, that Matthew and Mary would end up together. She also dislikes Sir Richard Carlisle , a newspaper tycoon who Mary takes a romantic interest in. She also fights with Isobel over
Violet and Rosamund scheme to intimidate Lavinia out of her engagement with Matthew. They are especially spurred to action when Rosamund overhears Sir Richard threatening Lavinia in the gardens. Mary uncovers that Lavinia was blackmailed into helping Sir Richard start a political scandal, and is terrified of him. However, she refuses to use this information to destroy her, comparing it to her situation with Kemal Pamuk, and Rosamund and Violet are defeated.
When Isobel suggests to Cora that Downton Abbey be used as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, Violet reacts with horror and disgust at the prospect of unknown men living in the house. Cora coldly reminds Violet that she is no longer the Countess of Grantham, and says that she will make the decisions regarding the house. Lady Sybil accuses Violet of not being able to communicate between social classes, prompting her to reveal that she and Carson the butler always had the first dance at the servants' ball.
During the time that Downton was used as a convalescent home, Violet bore witness to a concert that Mary and Edith put on for the soldiers, in which Matthew and William the footman return home after a period of being missing-in-action. Mary sings, "If You Were the Only Girl in the World," and Violet is the only audience member who doesn't sing along, and stares in confusion at those around her for participating.
As the war progresses, Matthew and William are both wounded. Matthew is transferred to the hospital at Downton, but William, whose lungs have been critically wounded, is forced to stay elsewhere due to the fact that he is not an officer. Violet, backed up by Edith and William's father, goes against the promoted Major Clarkson and other military officials in order to bring him back to Downton so he can die comfortably. They succeed, and Violet forces the local vicar to marry William and Daisy Robinson while he is on his deathbed. Violet, Edith, and the entire downstairs staff attend the wedding. He dies six hours later. Matthew, however, suffered a spinal cord injury, confining him to a wheelchair.
At one point, a badly burned Canadian officer named Patrick Gordon comes to Downton to recover and claims to be Patrick Crawley, who allegedly survived the Titanic, recovered in Canada, and was caught in an explosion in the war. Violet, who has grown used to Matthew, reacts with indignation. Lord Grantham's lawyer, George Murray, speculates that Officer Gordon was a business associate of Patrick Crawley, and would have known some details about his life that would allow him to impersonate Patrick. The officer leaves Downton, not missed by anyone but Edith, who believed it was him.'
The war ends, and Isobel is pushing for Downton to remain a hospital. Violet and Cora, who both want life to return to normal, manage to convince her that the refugees left disadvantaged by the war need her help more.
In 1919, the Spanish Flu hits Downton Abbey, infecting Cora and Carson and killing Lavinia Swire. At the same time, Sybil plans to go through a "scandalous" marriage with Tom Branson , the family chauffeur, and Robert and Violet attempt to talk her out of it. When they are unsuccessful, Violet decides to minimize the damage by making up details about Branson that would make the marriage seem more acceptable to other members of the aristocracy.
Violet is set to clash with Cora's mother, Martha Levinson when she arrives at Downton. Currently, it is unknown how Violet will react on seeing Sybil and Branson.
- "Edith, you are a Lady, not Toad of Toad Hall." (Episode 2.02)
- "I'm a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose." (Episode 2.04)
- "Oh really! It's like living in a second-rate hotel, where the guests keep arriving and no one seems to leave." (Episode 2.04) - (Violet on the soldiers who staying at the convalescent home at Downton Abbey).
- "I don't dislike him, I just don't like him. Which is quite different." (Episode 2.06)
- "Oh, I should steer clear of May. Marry in May, rue the day." (Episode 2.07)
- "No doubt you will regard this as rather unorthodox, my pushing into a man's bedroom uninvited." (Episode 2.07)
- "I was watching her the other night, when you spoke of your wedding. She looked like Juliet on awakening in the tomb." (Episode 2.07)
- "Don't be defeatist, dear, it's very middle class." (Episode 2.08)
- "I do hope I'm interrupting something." (Episode 2.08)
- "Now, Sybil, dear, this sort of thing is all very well in novels, but in reality, it can prove very uncomfortable." (Episode 2.08)
- "1920! Is it to be believed? I feel old as Methuselah."
- "When I think what the last 10 years has brought. God knows what we're in for now."
Behind the scenes
- Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham is played by actress Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey television series.